Do Probiotics Affect My Gut?
genome & microbiome
Karl Heilbron wanted to learn about his gut microbiome, so he took a few tests using uBiome. After taking a series of tests, he changed his diet and introduced probiotics, that ended up having an opposite effect in his gut, contradicting their purpose. In this talk, he shares his story and interesting discoveries.
I work for 23andme, studying Parkinson’s disease but today I’m going to talk to you about a side project of mine, which has been playing around with my gut microbiome. I have three data points to share with you today and I guess I should first start with the caveat that you know there’s lots of sources of variation when you measure your gut microbiome. There’s experimental error. There’s variation from day-to-day, from week-to-week.
But the way I kind of want to paint this picture for you, so the three measurements I took were firstly, right at the end of my Ph.D. after living in England for four years and then about a year and a half later, having lived in California for a year, so the first kind of two bits of data I want to show you I like to think of that as England versus California.
And then the last data point that I have was two weeks after my California data point, I took a probiotics for two weeks and then measured my gut microbiome again to see if there is any noticeable change. So I’ll walk you through what I found.
So perhaps I should mention I did my Ph.D. in bacteriology at the University of Oxford, but you know it was based on antibiotic resistance evolution. I wasn’t particularly focused on microbial communities. So nevertheless, when I got chance to do my ubiome and see what was actually living inside me, I was pretty excited. And you know, being a pretty competitive person by nature I kind of wanted to have the best microbiome right.
This is what I found. So I threw these slides together just on the train, but you’re probably not got going to read the text, but I’ll read it out to you.
Basically, ubiome tells you that the average kind of like healthy sample has about a two to one ratio of fimicutes to bacteroidetes. This is two different phyla bacteria, and my ration is closer to ten to one instead of two to one. So you can see there’s a preponderance of orange in this figure. And so that’s quite off the charts, and this has been associated with things like obesity and weight gain and stuff like that. So needless to say I was off to a bad start, but I figured you know it couldn’t get any worse.
So then I looked at the different levels of the probiotic bacteria that resides in my gut, and it turns out I have none. So now you might start to understand why my interest in was doing this probiotic challenge for the second and third data points.
Finally, perhaps the one that I kind of found most interesting was that when I looked at the overall diversity of my gut microbiome, it’s in the bottom sixth percentile of all ubiome customers, so needless to say I had something to work towards now, despite having kind of I should say no overt symptoms or problems or anything like that. So, I just found something else to worry about basically.
Anyway, so a year and a half goes by and I moved to California. I spent a year here kind of instead of eating potatoes and Shepherd’s pie, eating wholefoods kind of kale and broccoli and I was hoping to see great things here.
So low and behold, I get my samples back and I’ll do a side by side comparison here, you can see my ration to firmicutes to bacteroidetes went from ten to one, down to about four to one. So you know I considered this a win.
Then, consider my probiotic bacteria, I still had no active bacillus, but my level of Bifidobacterium went up so you know, consider that a half win.
And then lastly, I looked at my overall microbiome diversity and went from the sixth percentile to to the twenty-second percentile. So still by no means what one might call good but you know perhaps much better than I was doing before, so this is quite exciting.
So like I said, immediately after I took that second sample, I took probiotics every day for two weeks thereafter. And I’ll quickly run through the comparison between the Californian no probiotics and the California two weeks of probiotics results here.
So my ration of firmicutes to bacteroidetes went from about four to one to about three to one, so still getting better. Bizarrely, essentially the idea was to take probiotics, but I found that I still didn’t have any active bacillus. And it appears that my level of Bifidobacterium actually decreased over the course that I was taking probiotics, so you can read into that what you will.
And lastly, I found that my overall diversity went from the twenty-second percentile to the thirtieth percentile. So I’m not entirely sure what I’ve learnt from this. I’m feeling somewhat skeptical about probiotics at the moment as you would might imagine as somebody in my shoes. And the kind of things that I’m interested at looking at in the future are I’ve lined up my next QS experiment. It’s going to be doing kind of two kits, two days apart to kind of get a sense of the variation in my baseline and how much I fluctuate. I don’t eat a lot of fiber, so I think that’ll be my next goal is to focus on prebiotics and see whether or not that might lead to any interesting change in my overall gut microbiome.